Italian Buttercream

There are many different types of Buttercream. I have listed recipes for a few different types previously but my favorite is Italian Buttercream. It has a very light texture and consists of mostly butter and air. It will take food color but since the sugar to butter ratio is so low, it takes time for the colors to fully develop. You can also decorate (as flowers, shells, etc.) with Italian Buttercream but you have to keep a cool hand. Handling the decorating bag in a warm kitchen is especially tricky and this Buttercream is always ready to melt into little puddles in my hot mitts.
I have written variations of this recipe several times already but never have I posted the original, so here it is.

Italian Buttercream
adapted from The Whimsical Bakehouse

1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (use only separated eggs or Eggology)
1 Pound plus 1/2 stick unsalted butter
Dash vanilla extract

In a small cooking pot, stir together water and sugar. Bring to a boil and using a pastry brush and water, wash down the sides of pan to remove any crystals. Do NOT stir again.

Boil 4 minutes then beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the cooked syrup into the whites.
Beat at high speed until the bowl is cool to the touch (about 10 minutes).
Slowly add the butter and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.

Confectioner's Sugar Question

One Google searcher from Sioux Falls, South Dakota wants to know, "How long does confectioner's sugar last?"

In my house, usually 1 year or less.

I buy confectioner's sugar whenever I find it on sale. Usually right after Christmas is a time when I need to replenish my stock after all of my holiday baking. Those stinkers at the grocery store know that people bake more during the holidays so they jack-up their prices because they know people need to buy ingredients with which to bake. Then after the holidays, they have a lot of stock they want to get rid of so the price goes way down.

I keep my supply of confectioner's sugar in a sealable plastic container. I have never had trouble with sugar becoming rancid or funky in any way but I have had trouble with kitchen moths and ants. Keeping the bags in a plastic container prevents those critters from invading my precious stash.

Q and A -- The Best Chocolate Icing

Valentine's Day is on the horizon and V-day just happens to be MrG's birthday. I don't know if you know this but MrG is a chocolate fiend! I am not a huge fan of chocolate icing myself (I prefer the lusciousness of buttercream) however, I know there are plenty of folks out there who just can't be happy in a cake without chocolate icing.

So, there is my goal: Delicious chocolate icing.

I really had no other requirements or limitations for the test except that I must be able to ice a cake with it. Let me tell you, there are a lot of people out there who claim to have the best or even a really good chocolate icing.

One of the recipes I tested came from Googling "chocolate icing", all the rest came from BakeSpace (if you haven't checked out BakeSpace before, they are a foodie networking site loaded with member-submitted recipes). I chose recipes with a variety of ingredients so I was sure to get some variation to the end result.

I rated each icing on a density scale from zero to five. Zero being as dense as whipped egg whites, a five being as dense as fudge.

For all of the recipes, I used unsalted butter. I have no idea if that was a mistake or not since most home bakers tend to use salted butter rather than unsalted when butter is called for in a recipe. Only one recipe called for shortening rather than butter and this recipe included the addition of salt. If I had all the time and money in the world, I would have gone back and tested all the recipes again with salted butter to see if that was an improvement but I think the recipes made with unsalted butter came out fine. If you test one of the icings I have listed here with salted butter (or if you are the originator of the recipe) let me know.

The recipes are listed in no particular order. All comments in italics are those listed on the recipe. My notes will be separate.

#1 Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting
by krrispy at BakeSpace

2 Cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 Cup cocoa powder
6 large marshmallows
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (or flavor of choice) extract

Sift confectioner's sugar and cocoa together in large mixing bowl and set aside.
Put marshmallows, butter and milk in medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until marshmallows are melted about 3-4 mins. Remove pan from heat. Pour the conf sugar and cocoa misture over marshmallow mixture. Add vanilla (or whatever) and stir until frosting is smooth and satiny. (Here I put in my mixer and let it go! Results are much smoother than hand mixed). Frost cake all at once.

I beat this for 5 minutes and it looked much like packaged icing [i.e. Pillsbury] but glossy. There was no change after beating an additional 5 minutes.
The flavor is silky chocolate, not much bitterness, with a hint of marshmallow.
Density rating = 3. It did not hold its shape well so it would be fine for between cake layers or as a cupcake icing but for icing a layer cake, I'd choose something else.

#2 Glossy Chocolate Icing Recipe
by saavedra at

Melt together:
3 Tablespoons shortening
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
Blend in:
2 Cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 Talespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat icing until it becomes smooth and glossy/thick enough to spread. Stir in 1/2 C. of nuts, if desired.
This will generously ice a 9X13 cake.

I beat this icing on high for about 10 minutes to achieve this volume. It was still quite dense after beating and became much more dense sitting overnight.
Density rating = 5. It has a dark chocolate flavor that is slightly bitter.

#3 Fluffy Chocolate Frosting
by annenhats at Bakespace

This version has a stonger, more distinctly chocolate flavor due to the boiling water which wakes up the taste of cocoa. From the Chocolate Cake Doctor cookbook.

Makes 3 cups, enough to frost a 2 or 3 layer cake or 30 cupcakes.
Preparation time: 10 minutes

2/3 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
6 Tablespoons boiling water, plus additional if needed
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar, more if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place the cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the cocoa comes together into a soft mass. Add the butter and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Place the confectioner's sugar and vanilla in the bowl, and beat with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, 2 minutes more. Add more boiling water, a teaspoon at a time, or more confectioner's sugar, a tablespoon at a time if the frosting is too thick or too thin to your liking.

2. Use the frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake or cupcakes of your choice.

I had problems with this recipe. I tried many times to scrape the bowl completely and get all of the chocolate reincorporated, but you can see from the photo of it in the Kitchen Aid bowl, it kept separating. Upon sitting overnight, the butter collected on the plastic wrap. I think the problem here is that the water and the oil from the butter have no intention of mixing.
Density rating = 4. The flavor was very rich and chocolatey.

#4 Fantastic Double Fudge Frosting
by culinarilyobsessed at BakeSpace

I did a review of this recipe as part of an article interviewing writer Ayun Halliday, author of the book "Dirty Sugar Cookies". This is my quintessential chocolate frosting. One taste of this and I was taken back to my childhood remembering the delicious food prepared by the little old southern ladies at our family reunions and church picnics.

(The recipe below is in the EXACT words of author Ayun Halliday.)

Ayun’s Double Fudge Icing

Put 1 1/4 C of sugar and 1 C of heavy cream in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring it every now and then so it doesn’t boil all over hell and back.

Meanwhile chop 5 squares of unsweetened chocolate to toss in the pan once you’ve removed it from the heat. Stir until the chocolate has completely dissolved. Whittle in a stick of butter and then when that’s melted, follow it up with 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Resist the urge to lick the spoon at this point because those tongue blisters would take a month to heal. Napalm is napalm, no matter how sweet it might taste. Put the pan in the refrigerator and go take a cold shower.

When the icing is cold, beat the hell out of it with an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Now you can ice that cake, if you bothered to make a cake.

The Napalm in the pan made me very nervous after the previous recipe. I was sure there was no way it was going to whip into anything. I chilled it in the fridge for about 2 hours and you an see how light and fluffy it turned out.
Density rating = 3. Awesome chocolate flavor. If time were not an issue (and more often than not, it is an issue) I would use this icing every time.

#5 Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
by myrnalee at BakeSpace

Just Tried this recipe for Chocolate frosting instead of the one I usually use. It is great and so easy to make. Will use it often. I left in the internet url for the site where I got the recipe.

Buttercream Frosting

Category: Chocolate Frosting and Icing
Serves/Makes: 3.25 cups Difficulty Level: 2

6 tablespoons butter, softened
Cocoa powder, see below
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For light chocolate frosting use 1/3 cup cocoa powder For medium chocolate frosting use 1/2 cup cocoa powder for dark chocolate frosting use 3/4 cup cocoa powder

In mixer bowl cream the butter. Add the cocoa and powdered sugar alternately with milk. Beat to spreading consistency adding more milk if needed. Blend in vanilla.

Recipe Location: 59669.shtml
Recipe ID: 24848

Super fast and easy. I used the 1/2 cup cocoa and I felt it achieved a medium chocolate flavor. I did not add all the milk.
Density rating = 1. Light, fluffy, tasty, and easy. Definitely a keeper.
This recipe did not make a lot. There was only enough icing for 18 cupcakes.

#6 Chocolate Cream Filling
by annenhats at BakeSpace

This filling is ooey-gooey, chocolaty and sweet. Use this filling in the middle of cake layers, sandwich cookies or roulades. Recipe from The Chocolate Cake Doctor cookbook.

Makes 3 cups
Preparation time: 12 minutes

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar

1. Place the chocolate chips in a medium glass bowl and place in the microwave on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and stir the chips with a wooden spoon until they are melted. Do not over-cook, as the melted chocolate will harden back up.

2. Add the butter, marshmallow creme, and vanilla to the chocolate. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the sifted confectioner's sugar and beat on low speed to incorporate, 30 seconds. Then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, or until light and fluffy. The filling will be quite thick.

Ooey-gooey is right. This is not a super-chocolatey icing. If you like the flavor of marshmallow, you will like this icing. The only problem I see with this recipe is the length of time listed to melt the chocolate chips. I think I set them in the microwave for 20 seconds, stirred, then in for another 10 seconds and stirred again and that was enough to melt the chips without the chocolate separating or seizing.
Density rating = 2. I expected it to ooze off the cupcake but sitting 2 hours, it held the original shape.

To answer the question of emailer, Mumu (sorry Mumu, I tried to respond directly but the email was rejected) : there is no difference in the terms icing and frosting. You will find most home bakers refer to the topping of cakes and cookies as frosting and fancier bakeries and pastry chefs refer to it as icing. The terms are interchangeable. To note in a recipe whether your product will end up thick or thin, you must refer to the amount of liquid called for and make your best guess. You can always add more powdered sugar of you feel your result is too thin to work with.

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